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Lean and Process Improvement

In today’s competitive marketplace, successful manufacturers are flexible, efficient and responsive to customer needs. They have effective processes and a safe working environment for employees who are engaged and committed to results. While lean manufacturing has been around for years, it is more important than ever as operational efficiency is foundational for automation and even workforce retention.

The MEP National Network’s lean manufacturing and continuous improvement solutions help you apply disciplined methodologies and tools to ensure a continuous flow of value to your customer. The Network’s lean consultants consider the entire organization – plant floor, leadership and culture – and strive to embed lean principles and tools throughout the company. This holistic approach ensures that continuous improvement practices last and lead to more streamlined operations, reduced defects, shorter lead time, increased productivity and freed up production capacity. The MEP National Network has delivered over 80,000 lean manufacturing  projects. These projects have helped manufacturers save over $18.8 billion and increase and retain billions of dollars in sales.

MEP Centers can assist you in applying the lean process improvements through methods described below.

Value Stream Mapping

Often the first step in applying lean process improvements, value stream mapping (VSM) helps you uncover waste and determine how best to streamline your manufacturing and office processes. VSM allows you to take a high-level view of your process or value stream and then diagnose problems and implement changes. VSM is a great way to identify the right areas for improvement, allowing your company to maximize its productivity.

5S (Sort/Set in order/Shine/Standardize/Sustain)

5S is a lean manufacturing methodology used by front-line workers to organize the workplace by arranging tools and parts so that unnecessary items are removed, and required tools are visible with their proper placement self-explanatory. The result simplifies work processes, improves workplace safety, and eases equipment maintenance and troubleshooting.

Quick Changeover/Setup Reduction

Quick changeover/setup reduction is a lean process improvement that focuses on reducing the time between the last good piece off the current run and the first good piece off the next run. The MEP National Network can help your company learn quick changeover/setup reduction methodologies and practice the setup reduction principles in a selected process within your plant operations.

Cellular / Flow Manufacturing

Cellular flow manufacturing arranges process steps and equipment to achieve a continuous flow with no wasted motions or interruptions from batch and cue. Flow is often achieved through the design of cells for product families where equipment is lined up in a tight sequence to allow for one piece flow and a flexible and balanced workload among stations. Benefits of this lean manufacturing principle include increased productivity, reduced lead time, reduced inventory and faster resolution to quality problems.


Kanban is a lean manufacturing method for controlling production – it pulls inventory when needed. Kanban is a visual inventory management system that signals when you need to produce more of a part or product. Kanban uses actual customer demand, rather than forecasts or schedules, and replenishes what has been consumed. The benefits of implementing a kanban system can include reduced inventory, improved on-time delivery and lead time, and increased productivity by producing the right product that is actually needed by the customer.

Six Sigma

Six Sigma helps you improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and minimizing variability in your manufacturing and business processes. It uses a set of quality management methods, including statistical tools, and creates a special team of people within your company (called black belts, green belts, etc.) who are experts in these methods. It is a foundation for lean manufacturing.

Toyota Kata

Toyota Kata is a structured and focused approach to creating a continuous learning and improvement culture at all levels. It gives your company the framework for a sustainable problem-solving culture incorporating targeted experimentation and personal learning. There are two main elements to Toyota Kata – the improvement kata and the coaching kata. Toyota Kata gives you tools to improve how you lead, manage and help people develop the skills to thrive in today’s constantly changing marketplaces.

We have worked with AM&T for many years, on many projects. Great people great service! Would not be where I am without this team!  

— Jeff Cronk, President and Owner, C&D Assembly, Inc.
Read the Success Story

Heroes of American Manufacturing: ACR Electronics
Heroes of American Manufacturing: ACR Electronics
ACR Electronics, a client of FloridaMakes (the MEP Center in Florida and part of the MEP National Network), is the leading development center for emergency beacons that are designed with one purpose: to save lives. Through their combined technology expertise in the marine, aviation, outdoor and military markets, they design and manufacture cutting edge rescue beacons and survival gear for boaters, pilots, hunters, hikers, climbers, cyclists, and combat troops, not to mention many of the leading boat builders and aircraft manufacturers in the industry.


Young Team Planning Business Project
Credit: iStock/SeventyFour

A Lean Management Road Map to Build a More Proactive Game Plan

December 9, 2022
Research has shown that during times of economic uncertainty, companies that find a balance between reducing the resources they need to survive and investing in key areas for growth will fare better through a recession and beyond.


defining an issue and improving office processes
Credit: iStock/PeopleImages

How to Translate Lean Principles Into Your Office Functions

January 14, 2022
The lean manufacturing movement came out of a desire to reduce waste and inefficiencies and improve productivity in the operation.

Manufacturing Reports

CMTC’s Guide to Six Sigma is a comprehensive 15 page overview of the principles and philosophies of Six Sigma. It addresses the issue of quality in the manufacturing process and how to ensure that the quality is maintained.

Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is a flexible, easy-to-use diagnostic tool that does a tremendous job of representing a process from start to finish. It’s visual, easy for most people to follow and understand, and promotes focused discussion, brainstorming and problem solving among a diverse group of participants. This e-book will go into further details about the basics of Value Stream Mapping.

Articles on Lean and Process Improvement by MEP National Network Experts 

For more information or assistance with lean and process improvement, please contact your local MEP Center.

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Created June 4, 2020, Updated April 12, 2024